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Great countries don’t lose wars, and great countries aren’t hated with such venom from some around the world. ~Chuck Todd

Unless this is a tautology in which you have already defined great as “undefeated” and “universally loved,” this is not a true statement, and it is obviously not a true statement.  If the Iraq war troubles us because we fear we will cease to be “great,” then “we” have misunderstood what makes this country great and also what makes its government powerful. 

France was one of the greatest countries in the modern era and it lost several wars.  What this statement might imply is that “great countries” don’t lose wars to insurgents in no-account backwaters, but that also isn’t true–again, Britain and France stand out as powers that have suffered such reverses and managed to carry on as major powers.  The French even lost to Mexican rebels, for goodness’ sake.  Spain’s empire was dismembered from within by bands of rebels; the Spanish Monarchy, the superpower of its time, was brought to stalemate by the Dutch and humiliated by the English.  The presumably mightier People’s Republic of China was thrown back by the Vietnamese.  None of these powers necessarily ceased to be “great” in terms of political and military power, and when they eventually have ceased to be “great” there have usually been causes unrelated to defeats in wars. 

Hatred goes with greatness.  If you would not be hated, don’t seek hegemony and world power.  It matters less how you seek such power, as it is the seeking itself that conjures up resentment.  If Americans want to have the dominant nation in the world, be able to fight every war to a successful conclusion and not be hated by some sizeable number of people, then we as a people have lost all touch with reality.  Invincibility and domination would provoke hatred, and virtually universal good feeling is never going to be directed towards America so long as either one of the other two conditions applies.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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